when your garden`s abloom


when your garden`s abloom
I always try to have fresh flowers in my house. In the dead of winter, it’s a challenge
and I often have to settle for dried flowers. At this time of year when flowers abound, nothing
could be easier and more fun to collect.
Although Downton Abbey has a staff of gardeners ready to provide unlimited amounts
of cut flowers for the mansion, I have to scramble a little. One of my problems is that I prefer
to leave flowers where they belong, in the garden, dreading bare spaces that will change the
look of my pride and joy. That’s one reason I try to think outside the box. Using seed pods,
downright weeds, or twigs, I can get away with cutting less of my precious garden.
One solution for me would be to start a cutting garden. It’s a great idea for all nonDownton Abbey householders. Start with a 3 by 6
foot raised bed in a sunny location, adding plenty
of soil to the bed. A fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 or
15-15-15 is a good idea. Later, if you continue to
fertilize, use one with less nitrogen, such as 5-1010. Annuals make excellent plants for a cutting
garden; they can easily be grown from seed, will
continue to re-bloom for the season after cutting, and are supposed to be cut, thus allaying my usual
reluctance to cut. A list could begin with cosmos,
zinnias, sweet peas, salvias, snapdragons, and asters. Perennials, such as hardy ageratums, feverfew, and phlox could be added, but all the choices
are up to you.
Every year I plan to start a cutting garden
and never do get around to it, so here’s the way I operate. I collect flowers early in the morning or late
at night when they’re crisp with water. When I cut,
I will, I hope, enhance rather than disfigure each
plant. I try to make my depredations as inconspicuous as possible, meandering through the
garden rather than cutting all the flowers from one specific area. I do carry a pail of tepid
water to receive cut stems. I try to let the pail sit in the shade for an hour so the flowers can
acclimate to their new status.
To prolong the life of cut flowers, you may hoard the small packets given to you at the
florist or grocery store. You can also create your own flower preservative. There many different recipes. A simple one is to add Seven-Up and a few drops of chlorine bleach to the
water. Another is to combine 3 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vinegar,
and 1 crushed aspirin. Another is to mix 2 tablespoons each of white vinegar and granulated
sugar, mix with 1 cup hot water to dissolve the sugar and then add 3 cups of ice cold water. Before assembling the flowers in a vase, re-cut the stems at an angle. Strip all leaves
that will be underwater. Different kinds of flowers should be cut in different ways. Woody
and hard-stemmed flowers such as flowering tree branches, chrysanthemums, phlox, and
roses should be slit or crushed at the bottom. “Bleeder” flowers such as poppies, dahlias,
euphorbia, hibiscus, and hydrangea should be split one inch at the cut end and held over a
lit candle for 30 seconds, I dip stems in boiling water, which seems to work as well. To keep
your arrangements fresh, top off the water periodically. If flowers droop, re-cut them and
change the water in the vase. As for your arrangement, the main thing is to have plenty of self-confidence. The best
arrangements reflect the creator’s taste. Fortunately, it is unlikely that Martha Stewart will
happen to drop by to judge my work, so I don’t even strive for (boring) perfection. I prefer a
studied dishabille, just like my garden bed. Depending upon my mood, I might choose all of
one species, mix different flowers, and either contrast or blend colors. I have lots of vases, so I think carefully about which one to use. By now, I know which
arrangements will go where in my home. I do try to keep an open mind and sometime opt for
a series of small vases sitting on a mirror or a decorative plate or an unusually shaped vase
to be set in a completely different space.